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"Perfect Days" & "Demon Mineral"

Demon Mineral

"Demon Mineral," the new documentary by filmmaker Hadley Austin, is a true cinematic marvel. From its opening scenes, captured in a washed-out black and white palette, set just a half-hour's drive from the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, the film evokes a sense of the sacred and the ethereal—a sentiment keenly felt by the native communities affected by the nearby uranium mines.

With a palpable sense of reverence, the film unfolds gracefully, weaving a narrative that keeps viewers engaged and intrigued. Filled with unexpected twists and turns, both thematically and in its innovative filmmaking techniques, "Demon Mineral" seamlessly blends stunning imagery with raw verité footage and poignant voiceover, delivered in eloquent prose. The thoughtful sound design further enhances the immersive experience, offering a true sense of place, while the subtle score serves as a delicate accent to the storytelling.

At its core, "Demon Mineral" is a meditation on the stewardship of our natural resources—the very foundation of our existence. It confronts themes of colonization, the detrimental effects of capitalism, and the relentless pursuit of extraction in the name of progress.

A particularly memorable sequence is a montage featuring breathtaking desert landscapes from classic John Wayne films and the Westerns of the early to mid-1900s. Here, the film skillfully explores the dialectic between humanity's appreciation for the vast, untamed wilderness and its propensity for grandiose delusions—especially prevalent in the historical context of the United States, where a sense of entitlement to the land disregards the indigenous communities who first inhabited it.

"Demon Mineral" just premiered at Slamdance and is making its way to other festivals.

Perfect Days

"Perfect Days," the latest offering from the venerable filmmaker Wim Wenders, feels tailor-made for this juncture in my life. It serves as a gentle exploration of the essence of existence—urging us to embrace the present moment amidst life's inevitable interruptions, surprises, and complexities. In a profoundly Buddhist manner, the film encourages us to observe, accept, and continue forward on our journey.

Visually stunning, the film unfolds with a quiet grace, inviting us to accompany Hirayama as he navigates his daily routine—a poignant blend of simple joys amidst the urban bustle. Koji Yakusho's portrayal of this character, who speaks sparingly yet exudes vibrant life through subtle facial expressions, is nothing short of miraculous.

Despite its serene demeanor, "Perfect Days" is accompanied by an evocative soundtrack featuring the likes of Lou Reed and Van Morrison, echoing through the cassette collection cherished by Hirayama. Watching this film evoked memories of late-night bike rides through the deserted streets of Denver—the city felt like it was mine and it served as a reminder to seek moments of pure joy amid life's complexities.

As Wenders channels the spirit of his cinematic idol, Ozu, he reminds us to savor the present moment—a sentiment echoed in the wisdom of Tich Nhat Hanh. "Perfect Days" encourages us to approach each task, whether washing dishes or drinking tea, with mindful attention, recognizing the profound significance of each moment in shaping our lives. In a world that often rushes towards the future, this film serves as a poignant reminder to slow down, cherish the present, and appreciate the miracle of our existence, or as Ozu said it “I just want to make a tray of good tofu. If people want something else, they should go to the restaurants and shops.”

Perfect Day’s is some of the best tofu I’ve had in recent years and I suggest everyone to see it, go into with patience and an open heart and let it nourish you.

Perfect Days is now playing at Film Streams and The Alamo.

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Joshua LaBure is a documentary filmmaker, radio producer and podcaster based out of Omaha, Nebraska. His experience includes having directed and produced several short films, two narrative features and two documentary features, with his works featured at the Lone Star Film Festival, The Bureau of Creative Works and other filmmaker showcases. His most recent documentary had a sold-out premiere and received a standing ovation at the Benson Theatre. Furthermore, he founded the Denver Filmmakers Collective, which hosted local filmmaker showcases, has served on jury for major film festivals and has hosted countless film screenings.
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